Arnold Kling's Questions for Candidates

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Do you believe that it is possible for America and its values to co-exist with a militant Islam as strong and as popular as it appears to be today?

If your answer is "yes," then:

  • Does that mean that you envision a world in which American values have a sphere of influence and Islamofascism has its sphere of influence, and we achieve a sort of detente?
  • What parts of the world are you prepared to see come under the Islamofascist sphere of influence?
  • Are you prepared to see the Islamofascist sphere armed with nuclear weapons?
  • How would you defend the American homeland if Islamofascists choose to attack?

If your answer is "no," then:

  • Do you believe that Islamic militancy can be reduced through appeasement, or does it have to be opposed militarily?
  • Who do you see as our key allies, and who do you see as our key adversaries?
  • What is your strategy for limiting the military capability, particularly access to weapons of mass destruction, of Islamic militants?
  • How important are American values in this conflict?
  • How would you go about promoting American values abroad?

See Kling's whole article at TCS. But more important: what are your answers?


flenser said...

I read the article at TCS. Sounds a bit like commenter "Pooh" over at Roger's.

Interesting questions though. I'll answer tomorrow.

truepeers said...

I think first we have to think long and hard whether we have any business making this distinction between Islamofascism and Islam. In other words, just what are the possible forms that Islam can take (if it is always authoritarian, need it always aspire to be totalitarian: when Islam, in a given place, is not the dominant authority, does it have an inherent tendency to aspire to grow to become such?) THere is an ongoing discussion of the use of the term Islamist and Islamofascist at Lawrence AUster's blog. ONe recent post of interest is here. See also the argument of Graham Spence, a few paragraphs into this post

terrye said...


Of course we have to make the distinction. There is a difference between Sufi Islam and Shia and Sunni and Wahhabi. Needless to say the entire religion needs a reformation but it would be wrong to make every Muslim on the planet the enemy. It would detract from our ability to deal with the really dangerous people and it would feed the sense of victimization that in turns feeds the jihad.

We need friends where ever we can find them in this fight and yes I do think American values are important here, but I think those values are not just American..they are western and they include religious freedom. We can not condemn the Muslims for not practicing it if we do not practice it ourselves.

But of course there are limits, no imams in the streets preaching jihad.

truepeers said...

Terrye, I also think we need to maintain the idea of the moderate Muslim. But i think it is something of a necessary myth. The moderate Muslim certainly exists, but whether they exist often enough at the core of organized Islam to really turn the future of the religion is in doubt. One day maybe, but for now we have to come to terms with the reality that educated modern Muslims, like the convert RObert Frager, Ph.D. can write (in the Wisdom of Islam, p. 131:

The Iranian revolution provided an inspirational example to Islamist movements around the world. In spite of its extreme elements, Muslims saw, for the first time, a modern Islamic state that proudly maintained economic and political independence from the West.

It is only natural that intelligent Muslims are seeking new alternatives. THe basic features of the new Islamic movements include a belief that Islam is a comprehensive way of life that includes society, politics and economics. There is also an understanding that Western secularism and materialism are incompatible with Islam.

Many Muslims feel that the renewal of their society requires a return to Islam as a response to the Western education and secular values imposed on the last few generations by the colonial powers. THis includes replacing present Western-derived legal systems with laws based on Islam. Science and technology are to be accepted but studied and applied within a framework of Islamic values. Change also requires social and political struggle against corruption and social injustice."

- so there's a nice Sufi American professor for you, essentially calling in a book, published in 2002, for a totalitarian Islam, and in a way designed to appeal to the angry western youth. That's a book seeking western converts. The mildness of the Sufi may be something of a myth. Some people see them as being, when riled, among the most fearsome of the Muslims. I have yet to examine this question for myself.

If i get around to it, I mean to write something about a Canadian Muslim group that professes a belief in every liberal cause: gay marriage, equal rights for women in sacred spaces, women and homosexual rights more generally, separation of church and state, a recognition that anyone who calls himself a Muslim should be considered one, etc. So, these westernized liberal "Muslims" are out there; but at the meeting I attended it was 95% lefty white people: the local "Muslims" did not seem to take them seriously.

Still, you are right. We need friends and we can't make every Muslim our enemy. I just think we need to be realistic how hard our task is going to be. We our up against a religion the great majority of whom define themselves in resentful opposition to our form of civilization. And they now have nukes to back them up.

I put most hope in the idea that Islam can be tempered by a renewed emphasis on national identities and on secular politics. That's why I linked to the Auster post with the comments on Turkey, even though Auster has less faith than I in such alternatives to hardcore Islam.

truepeers said...

Terrye, let me quote Auster's argument, because I would like to hear your response. I don't entirely agree with this myself. I think he caricatures neoconservatism too much. I consider myself sympathetic to the neocons and I would reject his facile description. Still, there is something to his point:

The importance of “Islamism” to the neoconservatives

The significance and danger of the liberals’ and neoconservatives’ use of “Islamism” instead of “Islam” is apparent: as long as we tell ourselves that only a small ideological faction of “Islamists” is our problem, rather than Islam itself, we will fail to see who our real adversary is, and we will fail to defend ourselves from him.
Many of us understand that point. What we don’t yet fully appreciate is how important the “Islamist” construction—or its ridiculous variant, “Islamofascist”—is to the neoconservatives themselves. The essence of neoconservatism is the view that our nation and civilization are nothing but a universalist democratic ideology, equally accessible to every person on the planet. To the neocons, all the substantive realities that constitute our shared existence—religion, history, tradition, culture, constitutionalism, nationhood, peoplehood, our way of life, our way of being—are as nothing. To the neocons, the only real thing is the universalist ideology, plus money (the latter being the theme of Norman Podhoretz’s incredibly vulgar book My Love Affair with America). Since the neocons see our nation as only an ideology, they can only conceive of a threat to our country in ideological terms, that is, as a false ideology that is opposing our true ideology. They cannot conceive that a people or a culture or a religion could be a threat to us, because people, culture, religion and other such substantive realities are not real to the neocons; only ideology is real. And this is why they call our enemy “Islamism” (which is an ideology) instead of Islam (which a religion and, according to the teachings of Islam itself, a nation).

The neocons’ ideological view of reality served America well during the Cold War, when our adversary was indeed an ideology. But it does not serve America, indeed it puts us at mortal risk, in the civilizational and demographic war of Islam against the West.

And this is why our argument that the neocons should say “Islam” instead of “Islamism” falls on deaf ears. For the neocons to hear what we are saying, they would have to let go of their most fundamental philosophical orientation toward the world and admit the possibility that the world consists of peoples and religions and civilizations that are profoundly, often irreconcilably, different from each other; they would have to admit that the universalist idea is false. Thus the neocons’ use of the word “Islamism” is not simply an intellectual mistake on their part; it is, at present, the linchpin of their political being, their life-jacket in the stormy seas of reality.


terrye said...


I do not know what that man is babbling about. That is the truth, I had trouble following him.

I get so tired of people trying to make this more complicated than it is.

There are over 1 billion Muslims in the world. Have we ever seen anything remotely resembling a billion people ranting and raving in the streets?

We are talking about an academic here. Most people are not academics. Most people just want to be left the hell alone to live their lives. Most people don't want to live in fear. Most people don't want to get political.

The neocons are not saying that people are not different. They are saying that if the choice is between seeing your children put through a wood chopper and a representative government, most people will chose the latter. It is not as if there has been a stable workable alternative here. If not for Western involvement and for the oil wealth most of the governments in the ME would not even exist.

I have great respect for Winston Churchill, but he was wrong about India. He believed they were incapable of decent self government, that their culture made it impossible. Well he was wrong. And if he can be wrong about something like that so can this guy.

No one is saying that Iraq will look like Indiana, but that does not mean that it has to look like the Gaza strip either.

BTW, the honeymoon is over for the mullahs, they hold onto power through a repressive state regime...they have left a lot of people disillusioned.

truepeers said...

Terrye, thanks for having a go with my babbler. I share your hopes. ANd yes, of course not all Muslism are insane jihadists (though the opinion polls are not particularly hopeful in respect to passive support). I remain unsure however about the voice of organized Islam - what can it become in the modern world, and will it roundly forego the violent jihadists and its current rejection of market-based modernity? I see few hopeful signs of change anytime soon, and i am quite sure humanity cannot maintain 6 billion people without the modern market system.

So, to get back to Seneca's questions, I htink we have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, hope that Moslems can find more interest in taking ownership of modern democratic states than in exporting Islam. Yes, most Muslims will not choose the woodchopper. But, shockingly, some do, if it is justified as martyrdom (as in the child suicide bomber cults) or sometimes simply because there is a troublesome, expendable mouth to be fed.

One thing I am relatively sure about is that when times are full of trouble people will be more likely to turn to God as their final hope. Ultimately, what is at stake in present conflicts is both our visions of politics and of God - our ideas on how the two are best combined and I think that is something on which most people have an opinion, often available for manipulation.